What style of Bird Feeder should I get?
The easiest way to attract birds to your yard is to put up a bird feeder. There are many different varieties on the market. Most are made for seeds, but there are also specialty feeders for certain foods, such as sugar solution for hummingbirds, suet, or peanuts.
The answer depends on the kinds of birds you want to attract.
Every style of bird feeder comes in a variety of models and sizes. Look for the WBFI Quality Standards Logo to ensure you are purchasing a high-quality product.
The ideal bird feeder is:
- sturdy enough to withstand winter weather
- tight enough to keep seeds dry
- large enough to avoid constant refilling
- easy to assemble and clean
- made of durable materials, such as plastic and/or metal.
Your bird feeding strategy:
To attract the greatest variety of birds, use several different feeder types offering a variety of foods. Alternatively, you may want to attract certain bird species, but dissuade others. The following information will help you make the correct feeder choice.
1. PLATFORM (or Tray) Feeder: Any flat, raised surface onto which bird food is spread, with or without a roof.
Trays attract most species of feeder birds, but they offer no protection against squirrels, chipmunks, rain, or snow. Plus the seed can quickly become soiled by droppings because birds stand right on top of it. Tray feeders placed near the ground are most likely to attract ground-feeding birds such as juncos, doves, jays, blackbirds, and sparrows. Tray feeders work well mounted on deck railings, posts, or stumps, and also can be suspended. Some models have a roof to provide protection from the weather. Be sure your tray feeders have plenty of drainage holes and a roof.
2. HOPPER (or House) Feeder: Platform with walls and a roof, forming an enclosed “hopper.”
Hopper feeders protect seeds fairly well against the weather, but not as well against squirrels. It also keeps seed clean. They are attractive to most feeder birds, including finches, jays, cardinals, buntings, grosbeaks, sparrows, chickadees, and titmice. Most hoppers hold a good quantity of seed. Few are weatherproof, however, so the food may get wet and moldy if it sits for a few days. Hopper feeders can be mounted on a pole or suspended. Keep the squirrels from raiding your bird feeder with a squirrel baffle.
3. TUBE Feeder: Hollow cylinder, usually of clear plastic, with multiple feeding ports and perches.
Tube feeders keep seed fairly clean and dry, and if they have metal feeding ports they are somewhat squirrel resistant. The birds attracted depend on the size of the perches under the feeding ports: short perches accommodate small birds such as sparrows, grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, and finches (such as the familiar House Finch), but exclude larger birds such as grackles and jays. Styles with perches above the feeding ports are designed for seed-eating birds that like to feed hanging upside down such as goldfinches, while dissuading others.
Special tube feeder designed with extra-small openings to dispense tiny Nyjer® seeds. Nyjer® is also known as thistle or niger. These feeders attract a variety of small songbirds, especially finches and redpolls. Nyjer® “socks” are fine-mesh bags that birds cling to, in order to extract the seeds.
OTHER STYLES OF BIRD FEEDERS
Window Feeder: Usually made of clear plastic, this feeder suction-cups to your window.
The window feeder allows close-up views of birds as they come to feed and attracts several species: such as: finches, sparrows, chickadees, and titmice. However, make sure to keep the feeder filled with fresh seed, as birds feed while atop feed creating opportunities for spoilage.
Suet Feeder: Wire-mesh cage or plastic-mesh bag, such as an onion bag, which holds suet or suet mixture.
The suet feeder can be nailed or tied to a tree trunk, or suspended from an overhanging branch. Suet feeders attract a variety of woodpeckers and nuthatches, as well as chickadees, titmice, jays, and starlings. Suet cages that are open only at the bottom are starling-proof because they force birds to hang upside down while feeding, something starlings find difficult to do.
Hummingbird Feeder: A container to hold artificial nectar or sugar solution; may be bottle or saucer style.
- The bottle or tube type of hummingbird feeder is usually made of glass or plastic, often with red plastic flowers and bee-guards (little plastic screens that keep insects away from the sugar solution) on the feeding ports. Make sure the feeder is easy to take apart and clean, because it should be washed frequently. For example, the fill hole should be large enough for you to reach in while cleaning.
- Saucer-shaped hummingbird feeders have feeding ports in the top, making them bee-and wasp-proof. Saucer feeders are better than bottle feeders in direct sunlight. Bottle feeders tend to leak in the sun—air trapped in the top of the bottle expands as it warms and pushes the nectar out. In fact, you should avoid locating your hummingbird feeder in direct sun—it causes the sugar solution to spoil rapidly.